I’ve always wanted to write a western. Scratch that. I’ve always wanted to live in a western. The closest I’ve been able to come is writing a series of historical mystery novels set in 1890s British Columbia. The world was on the cusp of a century that would see more change in the way people lived their lives than any other in history. I deliberately set my series in a moment in time before the telephone and the automobile, both to force myself to learn more about how life was then, and also to make it more challenging for my amateur sleuth to solve the crimes she encounters.
When we think of historical Canadian novels, many of us might conjure up Anne of Green Gables. The town I’ve created, called Horse, is nothing like Avonlea. Horse is set in the region now called the North Okanagan. In 1890, this was the edge of the Canadian frontier. The railway that stretched all the way from the Maritimes, connecting the country end-to-end, had just been completed five years earlier, opening up the province that lay to the west of the Rocky Mountains.
What fascinates me about life up until the early 20th century is how challenging every day must have been. We live in a time now when our every whim can be satisfied by a click of a mouse or a swipe on our smart phones. I constantly ask myself what it was like for most families having to grow what they needed to eat, and mostly eat only that which was local and in season. How annoying and awkward it must have been to keep food cool without refrigeration. Knowledge was found, if people were lucky, in the local library or in the local newspaper, which might bring the news weeks or months after it had happened. People made their own entertainment with music, song and dance. They made their own clothes, for that matter.
What was it like to stand on a busy street corner and not hear a single combustion engine? The sense of community must have been entirely different from what we experience now because people had to rely on one another to survive. How did the water work in a brand new town like Horse, out in the middle of nowhere? Did residents draw it from wells? There wouldn’t have been a well in every backyard. What happened when people died in the middle of winter and graves couldn’t be dug?
The main character in the Town Called Horse mysteries is a woman born a century ahead of her time. Julia Thom wants to be a lawyer, but women are not allowed to attend law school in 1890 Canada. She has no interest in being married or having children. How would a woman of that time have coped with having this type of personality? In my books, Julia walks a very fine line trying to live her own authentic life without offending too many of her neighbors. She succeeds, but only some of the time.
These are some of the questions I asked and ideas I contemplated when I began the series, and I continue to ask myself today. They fuel the mystery stories I tell, and thrill my imagination. Writers are known for asking, ‘What if?’ I am also constantly asking myself, ‘How?’
About Horse With No Name:
Julia Thom is new to the small town of Horse, but she’s not new to trouble. When reclusive watchmaker James Hunter is beaten, but has no memory of the event, Julia vows to find the culprits. Even if Hunter hadn’t saved Julia herself from being assaulted, she would still be on the case; meddling helps keep her focus off her own complicated life. Julia is fast becoming a thorn in Police Constable Jack Merrick’s side and he flounders as he tries to figure out how to deal with such a headstrong woman.
When the attackers strike again and the violence escalates, Julia’s determination redoubles, putting herself in more danger than anyone could have anticipated. While Julia and Merrick grapple with finding unknown assailants, they must also find a way to come to terms with one another.
Horse With No Name is the second in a series of cozy historical mystery novels. If you like mysteries with a strong female lead, that put you on the edge of your seat, and focus on the relationships as much as the plot, then you’ll love Alexandra Amor’s heartfelt examination of life in frontier British Columbia.
Horse With No Name is a free ebook:
Award-winning author Alexandra Amor lives and writes in beautiful Vancouver, British Columbia. She is the author of nine books (and counting) including a memoir about ten years she spent in a cult in the 1990s.
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I’d like to thank Alexandra for stopping by to share her most fascinating story! I can remember reading Mrs. Mike when I was younger. I’m thinking it was set kind of in same time frame (true story, btw). I was so fascinated by life in the wild and wooly north! What think you, dear readers? Would you like to experience life without lights, cars, tech?
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